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Is home monitoring privacy a non-issue for seniors?

Not so very long ago -- 5 years --  an inventor I spoke with received funding from a VC firm to create a remote-controlled telephone, one that would record messages and remind seniors to take a pill and press a flashing button when they took it. However, after focus groups were conducted, the project was dropped. Seniors objected to the privacy invasion and interference by their adult children.

But maybe times have begun to change. Majd Alwan, who conducted several small studies of monitoring systems as a professor at the University of Virginia, says that compared to webcams, seniors see motion and contact sensors as less invasive, says Dr. Alwan, now director of the Center for Aging Services Technologies, Washington, D.C., a nonprofit research group. Add that to the AARP Healthy@Home survey in which 87% of seniors agree that "if I need to stay in my own home, I would be willing to give up some of my privacy to do that." And they are more likely (92%) to agree if they have a condition that limits one of their basic physical activities.

So let's assume that home monitoring were positioned by adult children as a way to enable their parents to stay in their homes longer, before being forced to move to Assisted Living Facilities (ALFs) or in with their kids. 

Not content with just monitoring temperature, passage into or from rooms, or other behavioral signals, however, I can see from the Journal article that researchers may again incur the wrath of seniors -- who this time may be the baby boomers themselves: "Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, are working on home systems that track changes in seniors' physical and cognitive abilities over time, lining up wall sensors to track seniors' walking speed and computer kiosks to engage them regularly in cognitive tests and games. Such long-term data could provide early warning of such conditions as dementia, says Tamara Hayes, an assistant professor, biomedical engineering." Without a tipping point in behavioral home monitoring adoption, such bait-and-switch efforts (play this game and we'll assess you from afar) will doom such efforts to failure.

 

 

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